Writing to Unravel a Taboo

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For one survivor of sexual abuse, writing emerges as key for personal and societal healing.

 

Ruminating

Ruminating by Naomi Heitz

“Unspeakable,” says the pope. I cringe. That’s just it, I think. Even when he’s publicly trying to apologize for the horrific crimes and secrecy within the church, he’s choosing a word that literally encourages more silence. It’s September 2010, and I wonder if Pope Benedict wishes that the world would stop speaking about the church’s sexual abuse history.

I certainly have felt in my own life the heavy weight of the taboo about speaking about sexual abuse. The outer threads of this dense blanketing taboo have started unraveling as the prevalence of sexual violation becomes more accepted. As a survivor of sexual abuse (note: not in the Catholic church), I can sense more tightly knitted fabric creating the core of the taboo. It’s our society’s preference to not look at or hear about the personal damage created by sexual violence. It lands in my body as a taut band that keeps my ribs from expanding comfortably when I breathe. It’s a spongy clog in my throat and a trace of nausea building in my gut. The taboo becomes friends with the direct damage from sexual trauma and feeds the pain. It’s difficult to fully heal in a culture that on the whole doesn’t get how wide-ranging and long-lasting sexual trauma symptoms can be.

Writing about my experiences helps me spread the fibers of the suffocating taboo. I write what tumbles through my mind. I translate into words the reverberations, blocks, and floods of trauma imprints within my body. Writing documents my healing patterns, releases my pain, and lets more clarity flow through me. With clarity comes more courage. So I continue to write and speak, even as I meet the taboo on an almost daily basis.

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SafeTouch Success Story

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alexis and puppetsThe Center has presented SafeTouch to kids in our community for over 30 years. These violence prevention education programs use evidence-based best practices in age-appropriate lessons to promote safety and reduce child sexual abuse. The curriculum is continually reviewed and updated with teacher and parent input.

Child sexual abuse (CSA) is unfortunately much more common than many people realize. Darkness to Light (D2L), a national organization to end child abuse, estimates that about 1 in 10 children experience sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. Even more children experience non-contact sexual abuse. Only about a third of kids tell someone when they experience abuse. CSA occurs across all demographic groups and can have long-lasting negative impacts such as physical and mental health problems, emotional and behavioral issues, and poor academic performance.

Though the problem of CSA looms large, the Center has a successful prevention program on multiple counts. First, by sheer numbers, we are very successful in getting these crucial public safety messages out to the county. We present SafeTouch programs in every classroom of every elementary school in both local school districts. Overall, we reached 14,805 youth and adults in 865 education programs during the 2013-2014 school year.

Second, we know that our programs work! Through rigorous assessment and evaluation, we found that 94 percent of 4th graders who had been in our program in the year previous could accurately remember the safety saying. Additionally, when compared with students who had not received Safe Touch programs, students who had been through our 4th and 5th grade programs were significantly more likely to accurately identify cyber-bullying and sexual harassment and to have positive beliefs about reporting inappropriate or unwanted behaviors.

And third, we help stop abuse in our community. We train our staff and volunteers to look for signs of possible child abuse, or ‘red flags,’ during programs. We work with school personnel and Child Protective Services to investigate any disclosures or red flags and ensure that children receive the services they need. During the 2013-2014 school year, we followed up on 12 direct disclosures of abuse received during our classroom presentations and on 119 ‘red flag’ signs of potential abuse. For any of those children who disclosed abuse or exhibited red flag behaviors, the support and care they received through our intervention is a success story indeed.

For information about our programs and how to request one for your group, visit ocrcc.org/programs.

Interested in getting involved? We are now accepting applications for SafeTouch Educators, StartStrong Educators, and a CSA Prevention Intern!

Alyson Culin is our Development & Marketing Director. She supports the Center through fundraising, communications, and outreach efforts.


PREA: A Long Road for Incarcerated Survivors

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“Sexual abuse is a crime, and should not be the punishment for a crime.”
– US Department of Justice Letter to Governors, March 5, 2015

prison stock photoWhile this statement might seem obvious to those who work in sexual violence prevention and response, it represents a profound shift in how the wider public, and even those in corrections, view sexual assault in the context of prison. Rape and sexual harassment have long been considered an inevitable—or even deserved—part of the prison experience. Additionally, sexual violence is ingrained in the prison system, perpetrated (by inmates as well as guards) as a means of establishing and maintaining power dynamics and prison hierarchy.

The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was passed in 2003 to address the epidemic of sexual assault in all corrections facilities, but comprehensive guidelines didn’t take effect until 2012, with the National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape. Finally, just this month, May 2015, the Department of Justice will begin to enforce those guidelines by withholding funding from states that are not in compliance. The National Standards specify that any confinement facility (including prisons, jails, lock-ups, juvenile facilities, and community and immigrant detention centers) must:

  • Adopt a “zero-tolerance policy” towards sexual assault and sexual harassment
  • Train both staff and inmates on sexual abuse
  • Train staff on effective and professional communication with LGBTQ and gender non-conforming inmates
  • Provide at least two internal and one external way for inmates to report abuse
  • Provide access to outside advocates for emotional support related to the abuse, and provide as much confidentiality as possible
  • Discipline perpetrators of sexual assault, both guards and inmates
  • Separate youth in adult correctional facilities and prevent unsupervised contact with adults
  • Provide access to support services for inmates with disabilities and limited English proficiency
  • Ensure inmates have timely access to appropriate medical and mental health services, on par with community level of care

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Affirmative Consent Legislation Proposed in NC

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Get excited y’all because NORTH CAROLINA IS CONSIDERING AFFIRMATIVE CONSENT LEGISLATION!!! Currently, California is the only state that has passed an affirmative consent law, but, as you can see on this map from affirmativeconsent.com, 14 more states – including North Carolina – are currently considering similar laws. At the end of last month, North Carolina State Senators Floyd McKissick (D; Durham, Granville) and Jeff Tarte (R; Mecklenburg) submitted an Affirmative Consent Standards Bill to the N.C. State Legislature, which is very similar to the one in California.

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Cupcakes & Cocktails: Meet the Judges!

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As Cupcakes & Cocktails rapidly approaches, we are excited to announce the panel of judges for this year’s cupcake contest. With a wide range of experiences and backgrounds, we can’t wait to hear their feedback as they sample the scrumptious sweets available this Sunday!

Sera Cuni

Sera Cuni

Sera Cuni grew up in Trumbull, Connecticut, with a family of self-taught cooks who enthusiastically embraced their Italian and Czech heritages. After attending Green Mountain College in Vermont on a soccer scholarship, Sera took her passion for food and cooking back to Connecticut, where she graduated from culinary school. Over the course of her career, Sera has worked at the Fearrington House Inn and Nordstrom’s Café. In 2006, Sara Foster hired her as a chef and kitchen manager for the Foster’s Market Chapel Hill restaurant. Since then, she and her wife Susan have purchased the Chapel Hill location and continue to abide by Sara Foster’s primary food ethic—that great food doesn’t have to be fancy. These days, you can catch Sera working away as co-owner and chef at The Root Cellar Cafe & Catering.

Yelena Etten

Yelena Etten

Yelena Etten has been interested in baking for as long as she has loved sugar. She remembers helping her mother make yeast rolls at the tender age of 3. Once her family moved from Russia in 1992, she signed up for her first cake decorating class and was the youngest student in the class. She has been making cakes for the last 20+ years, perfecting her technique and flavor combinations. She was the Cupcake Champion for the Center’s Cupcakes & Cocktails in 2014 and is looking forward to helping judge all of the yummy cupcakes this year.

Bill Smith

Bill Smith

Bill Smith hails from the town of New Bern on the North Carolina coast. An accomplished chef and writer, his food writing has been featured in well-known publications like the New York Times, and his cooking has twice earned him a vote into the final five for James Beard’s Regional Best Chef award. Bill currently creates interesting spins on classic Southern dishes at Crook’s Corner, which was named one of “America’s Classics” by the James Beard Foundation. After 22 years at Crook’s Corner, he continues to interpret heirloom recipes, often resulting in iconic dishes. There’s talk across the nation about his Atlantic Beach Pie, but locals  know that it’s the decadent Honeysuckle Sorbet – available only briefly each May – that’s worth the annual wait.

Molly Stillman

Molly Stillman

Molly Stillman has been sharing her likes, dislikes, and a piece of her mind with the internet for nearly a decade as a life and style blogger. On her blog, Still Being Molly, she writes daily about fashion and beauty, some of her favorite recipes, her DIY and home decor projects, essential oils, photography, product reviews, and life as a wife and mother, and even about money. She’s basically your best friend and a Jane-of-all-trades. Her main passion is entertaining and inspiring others through empowering women to look and feel confident in the skin God gave them. Molly currently resides in Durham with her husband John, their daughter Lilly, and their two dogs, Audrey Hepburn and Tater.

Dorothy Tong

Dorothy Tong

Dorothy Tong is The Cupcake Princess and a champion from the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.” She was a proprietor of Cupcake & Cookie, her innovative bakery located in the heart of Los Angeles, California, until she moved to Durham in pursuit of her MBA at Duke University. With her passion for extraordinary desserts, Dorothy’s Cupcake & Cookie specialized in cupcake-filled cookies, cookie-filled cupcakes, and liquid truffles.

Get your tickets for Cupcakes & Cocktails at ocrcc.org/cupcakes for only $40 through April 10. After that, a limited number of tickets will be available at the door for $50. See you on Sunday!

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SAAM Online Activism: Use Your Hashtag for Good

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activistforchangeThis year, you can spread awareness during Sexual Assault Awareness Month without ever having to leave your keyboard. Ever since the word “hashtag” made its way into Merriam-Webster dictionary, it seems we can no longer ignore the power behind the little symbol, once known as the “pound sign.” Online activism is trending now and what better way to spread awareness about sexual violence than through the power of the internet. In a world where social media is so pervasive, we invite you to participate in SAAM and use your hashtags to advocate for the end of sexual violence.

Ujpeg (2)sing the #SAAM or #SAAM2015 hashtags not only increases awareness to those who follow you, but also connects you with other activists in the movement. Take to Twitter to share the news and inspirational tweets of fellow advocates. See below for details on an Anti-Street Harassment Tweetathon on April 14, where you can be a part of a global event, 140 characters at a time.

InstagramOf course, Twitter isn’t the only outlet to paint the town teal. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) is challenging Instagram users to a #30DaysOfSAAM Instagram contest. Follow them on Instagram @nsvrc to see each week’s challenge posted. Below is an image of the challenge for week one of SAAM. Good luck!

#30DAYSOFSAAM Instagram Contest

jpeg (1) Another way to stay involved is through our Facebook page. There you can find links to events, related articles, photos, and news from the Center during #SAAM2015. Invite your friends to like our page. Be sure to RSVP to the different events we’re hosting this month and invite your friends to those events as well.

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The Problem with Victim-Blaming

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rapeWhile growing up in a rape culture, women are constantly told to follow the “rules” to ensure their safety. This list dictates what women should wear (nothing too short), what they consume (no drinks you didn’t prepare yourself), and even how they commute (never alone, never at night, and never in a “bad part of town”). Not only do these rules perpetuate a series of rape myths, they also result in victim-blaming.

Victim-blaming is a pervasive part of the trauma many survivors experience. Too often when survivors disclose, they are met with a checklist of questions, all centered on their actions instead of the perpetrator’s. Rather than focusing on the inappropriate and illegal conduct of the perpetrator, many will blame the victim for not adhering to the prescribed list of rules. The notion that any “disobedience” of the guidelines could result in or justify sexual assault is not only incorrect but it also discourages survivors from coming forward about their experience.

Victim-blaming occurs for many reasons. Some of it is rooted in notions around masculinity (“boys will be boys”), some of it in a general disregard for women’s bodies, and some of it comes from fear. Sometimes, people resort to victim-blaming to as an attempt to maintain an illusion of their own safety from sexual assault. In this case, it is easier to police the list of rules and insist that following them will prevent assault than to acknowledge the scary truth that rape can happen regardless of what the survivor does or does not do. But rape happens because of rapists—not the length of a hemline, or the amount of alcohol consumed. When people victim-blame, they distance themselves from the victim and keep alive the myth that the responsibility to prevent rape lies on the assaulted, not the perpetrator.

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A Most Delicious Affair: Cupcakes & Cocktails

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Join us for Cupcakes & Cocktails on Sunday, April 12!As the last guests trickled out the doors and into the night, staff and volunteers looked around the room with awe. We had just pulled off our very first Cupcakes & Cocktails fundraiser! Equal parts exhausted and sugar-facilitated enthused, we began to clean up and discuss the highlights of the event.

For some, it was the spirit of competition brought on by the cupcake contest. For others, it was the warm conversation shared with community members. For me, it was the incredible spread of cupcakes. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, and baked goods don’t generally excite me. The spread at Cupcakes & Cocktails, however, was different. Every table seemed illuminated with expertly-applied frosting, inventive flavors, and on occasion, the option of a vegan treat. To my left, cardamom cream cheese frosting sat gallantly atop carrot cake while on my right, rich ganache seemed to smother the Black Forest cupcake. Needless to say, by the time we were announcing the winner for the evening, I was experiencing a full-fledged sugar high.

After finally coming down (read: crashing) from all the sugar, I began to worry about my own baking talent, or lack thereof. Fortunately, the cupcake contestants were generous enough to provide us with their recipes so that we can attempt to recreate the magic in our own kitchens.

As the second annual Cupcakes & Cocktails approaches, consider entering this year’s cupcake contest! The event is on April 12, and competition entries are due April 1. If you need some inspiration to get the creative juices flowing, check out this recipe for the Fuzzy Navel Cupcake, runner-up of last year’s competition, by Nancee Merritt…

 

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One Billion Rising for Valentine’s Day

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One Billion RisingOne in three women worldwide will be beaten or raped in her lifetime. Around seven billion people live on this planet, so that’s about one billion women and girls.

One Billion Rising is a justice campaign that doesn’t just spread the word – it takes the word around the world. On February 14, 2014, 200 countries held events outside of government buildings, homes, places of worship, and countless other locations to demand justice for women and survivors of gender violence.

In the United States, nearly 1 in 5 women will experience rape at some time in their lives. This number increases to 1 in 4 women on college campuses. And hundreds of thousands of women and girls are bought and sold into sex trafficking each year.

Recent events on colleges campuses across America have shown that coming together as a community, fighting victim blaming, and not allowing colleges and universities to sweep sexual assault under the rug have been hugely successful — but we are not finished. Read more


AmazonSmile

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Support the Orange County Rape Crisis Center by using AmazonSmile!

AmazonSmile is a simple, automatic way to support your nonprofit organization. You only have to register once. After that, simply start at smile.amazon.com, then shop as usual. That’s it! Amazon will donate .5% of your purchase price to the Center. It even works with Amazon Prime.

And while you’re shopping, check out the Center’s Amazon Wish List.


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